goodluck-jonathanThe Federal Government on Tuesday said the country was currently losing between 60,000 and 80,000 barrels daily to crude oil theft.

President Goodluck Jonathan gave the figure in Abuja while speaking at this year’s Annual Banking and Finance Conference.

The conference with theme, ‘Upholding professionalism in the financial services industry: Supporting the economy,’ was organised by the Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria.

On Tuesday, the price of crude oil in the international market was $113 per barrel, and going by the figures quoted by the President, the country would be losing between $6.78m (N1.08bn) and $9.04m (N1.45bn) daily.

Figures released by the National Bureau of Statistics showed that the economy grew at a slower rate in the second quarter at 6.18 per cent than the 6.56 per cent in previous quarter owing to oil theft and pipeline shutdown.

But Jonathan said the loss of 80,000 barrels daily as a result of crude oil theft was minimal compared to the 400,000 being reported in some quarters.

The President, who was represented at the event by the Minister of State for Finance, Dr. Yerima Ngama, however, admitted that in recent times, the oil sector had brought about nothing but serious shocks to the economy.

Jonathan said, “The oil sector has brought nothing to this country than shocks. Even some new shocks that we never thought could be shocks, things like oil bunkering and oil theft. These are shocks because once they happen, they shut down the entire system.

“Most of the figures you see don’t even represent the theft. They say 400,000 barrels per day, but that does not represent what is being stolen in this country.

“What is stolen is between 60,000 and 80,000 barrels per day. But once they start stealing from your pipelines, do you allow them to continue? No, you shut them down and once you shut down, the entire production stops; so that is also a loss.

“So, when you see the entire loss, it is mainly because of the shutdowns and not because of the theft. The theft is little, but even that theft, since it is bringing another shutdown, is also a problem.”

To help mitigate the impact of oil sector shocks on the economy, the President challenged the banking sector to increase funding to the real sector.

He said sectors such as agriculture, mining, manufacturing among others should be given priority in terms of funding.

Jonathan said, “The financial sector can develop the real sector faster than the real sector can develop the financial sector, and that’s why the government is worried when the financial sector is not supporting the real sector the way it should.

“It is good to see that the central bank is intervening in some of these sectors but we need to see banks taking up the challenge; the central bank should regulate, while the banks lend.”

He said the fact that the central bank was still lending to the real sector was an indictment on the banking sector.

For instance, he put the banks’ total lending to agriculture as of March this year at N306bn, adding that this was made possible by the intervention of the Central Bank of Nigeria.

“Agriculture in Nigeria accounts for about 40 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product and if we really want to grow the economy, there is no way we can avoid lending to that sector,” he added.

Earlier, the President and Chairman of Council, CIBN, Mr. Segun Aina, had said the uncertainty in the oil and gas sector globally was a wakeup call for the diversification of the Nigerian economy.


Information from Punch was used in this report.